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'Extreme Programming' Controls Phoenix Mars Lander

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the hello-world dept.

Programming 119

pbd points out a story discussing the challenges faced by NASA engineers in designing the code sent to operate the Phoenix Mars Lander. Quoting Computerworld: "On Wednesday, engineers sent up the code to run an actual analysis, but a satellite orbiting Mars, which transfers the data down to the Lander, was offline. Robinson explained that the satellite had been hit with radiation, knocking it into safe mode. 'Space is a harsh environment, and sometimes they just go into safe mode,' he noted. 'It's a minor problem. [The satellite] aborts whatever it was doing and waits for future commanding.' Engineers successfully resent the code on Thursday."

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suppositories (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690159)

they melt in your ass, not in your hands

Went into safe mode, eh??? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690169)

Must've been running windows!

(sorry, had to go there)

That's coolness (5, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690197)

Not sure about others, but designing software and systems (software & hardware) that understand the data they are using, and when conditions are not right AND know how to go to safe mode rather than just fall apart is awesomeness in physical form.

Then just considering it a minor problem is an even higher form of awesomeness :)

As a hobby I build small robotic creations. I can tell you that working with limited resources, and having to deal with the completely unexpected is just brain damage for the fun of it. Testing your new code on the same hardware you've had for months and thinking "I really did not know that you could bend this metal piece with so little force" or "why the hell is it doing that" and find out that you missed a decimal point on force calculations or a typo leaves you reacting with subroutine x instead of y.

Those engineers have to be fscking proud of their work. I know I would be. Some days I look at code I've had running 24/7 for several years and am amazed, not just at myself, but that I managed to find the bugs and fix the "I didn't know that would happen" issues. It's a lot of type and bounds checking to be certain, but something always creeps in.

I say they should be proud. The Mars missions have been nothing short of exemplary awesomeness. When they figure out the failure they did have, I'm certain that the absolute goodness they built into it will help reveal totally amazing discoveries about why there was a failure. Nothing simple like metric conversions, or wrong alloy for the screws.

Makes me want to work with them. :)

Re:That's coolness (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690211)

No that's an irresponsible risk with a lot of taxpayer money.

Re:That's coolness (5, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690283)

Actually, considering it a minor problem is not irresponsible risk. When you are that cock sure of the equipment you designed that you can think of it as a minor problem when space radiation knocks your system into safe mode for a bit, you have awesome mad design skills, not risk taking behaviors.

Yes, they used tax payers' money, and I'm pretty glad that I helped contribute in some way. Exploring our solar system and beyond with instrumentation is an absolutely needed step to find more space for all the humans on this planet. Not sure if you have noticed, but there are a few things we are running out of here despite China's one child rule.... room, food, fuel, and some other less dramatic things. Mother nature has a way of balancing things, so she'll kill a lot of us off. If we want to continue growing, expanding, space is the only viable option with current trends and technology. Improving the technology we command and the information that we have is the only way to viable improvements. The space exploration programs aim to do this in very calculated ways, very methodical steps to discover new information on a cost per answer type basis.

It is NOT irresponsible. There are a lot of irresponsible uses of tax payers' money, but trying to expand human knowledge and capabilities is not.

Re:That's coolness (2)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690925)

Not sure if you have noticed, but there are a few things we are running out of here despite China's one child rule.... room, food, fuel, and some other less dramatic things.

We are not running out of them. We are only mismanaging them. There's lots of fresh water falling onto the oceans and empty land we can bring together.

Re:That's coolness (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23691975)

The 80's called. Something about not wearing out the word "awesome".

Re:That's coolness (2, Informative)

homer_s (799572) | more than 6 years ago | (#23692745)

Yes, they used tax payers' money, and I'm pretty glad that I helped contribute in some way.
That is the issue, isn't it? You might be glad, but there are people who do not want to contribute and they were forced to do so.

Not sure if you have noticed, but there are a few things we are running out of here despite China's one child rule.... room, food, fuel, and some other less dramatic things. Mother nature has a way of balancing things, so she'll kill a lot of us off.
This [wikipedia.org] might interest you.

Re:That's coolness (1)

uranus65 (837545) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690317)

But does it run on Lin...oh yeah, TFA says it does.

Linux may not be ready for the desktop, but it is ready for the surface of Mars.
-Me

Re:That's coolness (4, Insightful)

satoshi1 (794000) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690505)

Linux may not be ready for the desktop, but it is ready for the surface of Mars.
-Me


You know, I am actually cool with that. A stable operating system running a mission critical device thousands of miles away is important, everyone who has contributed to the Linux kernel in some way should be proud that their work is enabling us to learn amazing new things about our red neighbor. I think it says a lot that Linux was chosen over some internallly developed OS.

Re:That's coolness (3, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690515)

For a Friday night, that is a very nice thought. A project funded by the public, and at least in part, built by the public. Nothing says OSS works better than that. At least I can't think of anything that does... very nice.

Re:That's coolness (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690679)

Man, can I just see Gates and Ballmer huddled together trying to figure out how many engineering hours and how much money they would have to give to NASA to get NASA to switch to WindowsME for all their future probes.

It probably would be more than the amount of money and time for MS to create and send the probe all by themselves, without involving NASA at all.

Re:That's coolness (1)

Tangamandapiano (1087091) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690709)

Windows ME? Oh you're outdated... Microsoft has Windows Vista!

Re:That's coolness (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691621)

Sure, technically, NASA would a license for Vista, they would just use the free "downgrade" to WindowsME.

Re:That's coolness (5, Funny)

kperson (771747) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690733)

"A stable operating system running a mission critical device thousands of miles away..."

Just where the hell do you think Mars is??

Re:That's coolness (1)

Daniel Weis (1209058) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690965)

Boy do I wish I had modpoints for that one. I seriously laughed out loud to that one. :-)

Re:That's coolness (2, Funny)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690977)

Hey, after it gets larger than 10 basements, we lose the picture.

Obligatory PA reference...x2 (2, Funny)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 6 years ago | (#23692017)

Google > NASA for directions
Mars [google.com] is roughly 3715 [indo.com] miles from me, as the deepcrow [penny-arcade.com] flies.

Re:That's coolness (1)

weetabeex (1065032) | more than 6 years ago | (#23692589)

Just where the hell do you think Mars is??
duh! Somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean?

Re:That's coolness (5, Funny)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690739)

I just hope none of it was LGPL 3.

I think that would mean that RMS owns Mars.

Re:That's coolness (2, Insightful)

Tolkien (664315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690949)

Better him than the gov't, odds are they'll claim ownership, despite not having the right to do so.

Re:That's coolness (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691021)

So he has Mars ownership given to him through the rights granted him by a government that has no right to claim it for itself...

So how exactly does he have a right conferred to a government that does not have the power to do?

Interesting theory, but not sure it would stand up. Also, good job ruining a joke, eh.
 

Re:That's coolness (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691227)

I think it says a lot that Linux was chosen over some internallly developed OS.

No. Internally developed OS's still have their place in complex military and/or science systems. What I think is important to note is that Linux was chosen over other COTS options such as VxWorks and Green Hills.

The project I am working on uses Linux as a development platform to create a device with a fully internally developed OS. I am fairly certain Linux was not chosen because it wouldn't be able to meet timing requirements without being heavily modified/stripped-down, anyway.

Re:That's coolness (1)

johannesg (664142) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691889)

Did they release the drivers for all the onboard hardware, though? What if we want to build our own Mars lander and mod the digger a bit, or use a different landing sequence?

Re:That's coolness (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23692033)

Stable? Ha! You obviously have never run a BSD.

Re:That's coolness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23692447)

Nothing to be proud of. It is running vXWorks.

Re:That's coolness (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23693299)

Linux may not be ready for the desktop, but it is ready for the surface of Mars.

Which furthers the notion that you need to be a freaking engineer to run thing. Unacceptable for a desktop OS. Deal with it.

Re:That's coolness (4, Informative)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690809)

TFA appear to be wrong. It runs VxWorks 5.2 [windriver.com] .

The confusion probably arose because Wind River also sells a Linux version, and the press sometimes confuses that with VxWorks.

Re:That's coolness (1)

jfsimard79 (1303437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690411)

Ayn Rand would be proud.

Re:That's coolness (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690541)

As a hobby I build small robotic creations..."I really did not know that you could bend this metal piece with so little force" or "why the hell is it doing that" and find out that you missed a decimal point on force calculations or a typo leaves you reacting with subroutine x instead of y.

Please stay out of the automated brain-surgery biz ;-)
     

Re:That's coolness (2, Informative)

Innova (1669) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690621)

The Mars missions have been nothing short of exemplary awesomeness.
I couldn't agree more....with one exception [wikipedia.org]

One word (1)

Ruvim (889012) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690645)

Decaf?

Re:That's coolness (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23691551)

Well you be proud then. I can't afford health insurance and our government isn't doing anything about it.

I think I'll have another baby just to make you pay for it.

Re:That's coolness (0, Flamebait)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 6 years ago | (#23692699)

The federal government isn't responsible for that. If you want health insurance get a job.

No mention of Extreme Programming (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690203)

This article doesn't state the lander was programmed with Extreme Programming techniques.

There's just one sentence which says something about "presents extreme programming challenges" which is the closest this article comes to mentioning Extreme Programming.

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming (1)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690253)

I was dissapointed as well. I thought they might have been writing code on the fly to counter some bad thing happening. All we basically got was a compile delay :(

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming (3, Funny)

serge587 (1038264) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690297)

Then simply add some suspensefully dangerous music in the background and you have the next generation of thriller movies!

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming (4, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690361)

...whilst hand-coding a real-time, multitasking OS in assembler while suspended over a tank of water filled with hungry sharks. Laser beams optional.

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming (1)

Plaid Phantom (818438) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690769)

No, I'd say Laser beams are most certainly not optional. :)

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming? (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690373)

I gathered that if they uploaded a bad string, the lander gathers dust for a wasted day. Beaucoups dinero riding on correctness. Matthew Robinson's team look like heroes, this is like the triumph of the coders.

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690651)

Having a plan that requires 1000 lines of new C code every day is f'ed up beyond all belief. Someone doesn't know what they are writing about.

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690735)

Having a plan that requires 1000 lines of new C code every day is f'ed up beyond all belief. Someone doesn't know what they are writing about.

Wow, yeah. You actually inspired me to read the article. I thought "LOL, yeah right, AC must've made a typo". But I'll be god damned, the article really says that.

I always thought I was a fairly decent coder, but I might have to re-evaluate if other people can do 1000+ lines of debugged, production quality code every day.

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691993)

Having a plan that requires 1000 lines of new C code every day is f'ed up beyond all belief.
Not really. Now if it was Visual Basic...

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690559)

Were the engineers resorting to slide rules for their on-the-fly calculations, like in the "Apollo 13" movie?

Now *that* would be cool.

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690561)

This article doesn't state the lander was programmed with Extreme Programming techniques. There's just one sentence which says something about "presents extreme programming challenges" which is the closest this article comes to mentioning Extreme Programming.

Come on, get with the Karl Rove generation; It's close enough to mean what you want it to mean.
         

Re:No mention of Extreme Programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23693099)

Extreme Programming would never be used by NASA. They don't do things that way.

Careful, stable, and well tested.

You can't just walk over and reboot the machine if it crashes. Kill a mission because of a stupid bug and that's it.

Um what (0, Redundant)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690205)

What does this have to do with the word extreme?

Re:Um what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690257)

What does this have to do with the word extreme?
Like in Extraterrestrial?

X-* (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690271)

Think X-Games dude.

Re:Um what (0)

jyoull (512280) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690291)

The phrase "extreme programming" appears in the text..

It's just the SlashAI embellishing the story, like when the Boston Herald runs an online story about a shooting, and the CMS provides helpful team stats and other stuff:

The shooter was wearing a Red Sox [Standings | Schedule | Tonight's game] hat when caught by police near the Riverside T stop.

Re:Um what (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690533)

It may appear in the headline, but in the text, I see just one place mentioning an "extreme programming challenge". Sadly, my ESL-programmed brain parses that as "extreme (programming challenge)", not as "(extreme programming) challenge", but what do I know - IANANES. :-)

Re:Um what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690295)

Because the code has to run in EXTREME CONDITIONS :)

Re:Um what (0)

highlyjhi (1116659) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690303)

What does this have to do with the word extreme?
*GASP* One more article left unread...

Re:Um what (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690305)

Extreme Programming is a subset of the "agile" software methodologies which features test-first programming, pair programming, customer conversations / "stories" rather than specifications, to "do the simplest thing possible that could work" (and fix it up later... assisted by comprehensive test suites), and a 40-hour work week.

And somehow I doubt NASA is doing all that.

Re:Um what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690417)

The manager uses the word extreme to refer to all the conditions the programmers have to deal with - not how they deal with them. I don't think he is a software developer himself; otherwise, he would have likely used a different word to avoid confusion - unless they are using some extreme programming practices he does not go into.

Re:Um what (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690493)

"And somehow I doubt NASA is doing all that."
And you might be right. That is because this submission was processed with an editorial process called "Extreme Submission Editing", which is a subset of the "agile journalism" methodologies, driven by principles like "test-first publishing" (first publish it, then fix the bugs if there is a stronger "boo!" than usual), "pair editing" (pick any two editors, each one will believe that the other one is going to fix it) and "do the simplest editing possible that could work" (cross yourself, close the eyes and click the "OK, Publish the damned thing!" button). Thanks to the Extreme Submission Editing, Slashdot continues to bring you quality news at an unbeatable price!

Re:Um what (0, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691799)

Thanks to the Extreme Submission Editing, Slashdot continues to bring you quality news at an unbeatable price!

Unfortunately, quality is not a boolean.

Re:Um what (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690377)

Nothing. Read the summary and the article. They had nothing to do with Extreme programming [wikipedia.org] (or any kind of agile process).

Re:Um what (3, Informative)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690447)

It's definitely more extreme than the so called 'Extreme Programming'. Extreme in a sense that you have to get things right or an extreme amount of time and money will go to extreme waste. That's Extreme. 'Extreme Programming' is mostly about covering your ass, not about getting the code right.

Re:Um what (1)

JPEWdev (770760) | more than 6 years ago | (#23693179)

My Software Engineering Professor always told us that "Extreme Programming" was having one programmer doing the actual programming, and another looking over their shoulder correcting their mistakes as a they go. Whether that is more efficent than having both work on seperate parts and fixing their own bugs, I'm not sure, but it always helped the teams I've worked on produce good code. Although, I'm not sure that that lines up with the definition of "Extreme Programming" that everyone else has :)

Embedded programming is hard! (2, Insightful)

compumike (454538) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690287)

Sure, there's complicated software systems, but when something has to deal with hardware too, there's just a lot more to think about in every action. That's why engineers make abstractions -- enough to keep their part of a particular project in their head.

But shouldn't the "safe mode" limits be independent of the particular operation as much as possible? In software engineering, the people writing test cases are often not the same as the people developing the code, and for the reason that they want to match both to the spec, not to each other.

--
Hey code monkey... want to learn electronics? [nerdkits.com]

Re:Embedded programming is hard! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23692427)

Not hard!
  Embedded programmings skills are very different than what a PC programmer knows, he/. she must also have Microprocessors/I/O and digital electronics skill, Most don't.
The defacto test we use is to ask a candidate to turn on an LED with a momentary contact pushbutton switch, Inside of 2 minutes by what they ask and do, we know if they are an a real embedded programmer or not
We also ask them if an OS is necessary, if they
say yes they're out !
If they guess and say no, we a device driver necessary.
If they say yes they're out the door as well
Embedded programming is not hard , rather, It's a very different set of skills !

extreme programming != extreme programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690311)

Er, or something like that.

I got the impression that the NASA technique has nothing to do with pair programming, coding the unit tests first, and the other elements of Kent Beck's faddish Extreme Programming methodology. And more to do with having damn little time to write code and get it right, or literally priceless science may be lost.

New news publishing paradigm? (1)

serge587 (1038264) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690325)

Extreme publishing! Shit I hope it doesn't catch on.

resent on Thursday (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690329)

I've resented a lot of code I've written!

extreme hypenosys leaves humans acting like... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690359)

puppets. many continue to pretend all is well, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. the lights are coming up all over now. conspiracy theorists are being vindicated. some might choose a tin umbrella to go with their hats. the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.google.com/?ncl=1216734813&hl=en&topic=n
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/29/world/29amnesty.html?hp
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/06/02/nasa.global.warming.ap/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/06/05/severe.weather.ap/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/06/02/honore.preparedness/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/opinion/01dowd.html?em&ex=1212638400&en=744b7cebc86723e5&ei=5087%0A
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/06/05/senate.iraq/index.html

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=weather+manipulation&btnG=Search
http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece

Units? (2, Funny)

pythonist (1289628) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690383)

I'm wondering what units they are using? American? SI? or Martian?

Re:Units? (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691891)

Well for time they are thinking in Martian time. Especially for scheduling experiments. They are working themselves in a Martian timezone. They said that in a conference I saw on NasaTV.

Call me a pragmatist... (3, Funny)

Dice (109560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690387)

... but when I hear terms like "EXTREME PROGRAMMING!!!1eleven" I just roll my eyes and stop listening.

Re:Call me a pragmatist... (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690607)

There has to be some good jokes there. I think some members here can come up with solid promo dialog for an MTV-style code-off.

Don't miss it! It's EXTREME!

Re:Call me a pragmatist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690777)


That just reminded me of the best page in the universe [thebestpag...iverse.net] . Fracking funny too.

Re:Call me a pragmatist... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23691907)

"Extreme Programming" is a development methodology (DSDM, Waterfall, Open Source etc.) focusing on an obsessive amount of unit testing. It's not like the extreme in "extreme sports". Though that would be awesome. I can see it now. "He jumps from the plane at 14,000 ft. Oh shit, he build is broken! Debug. DEBUUUG!"

Re:Call me a pragmatist... (2, Insightful)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 6 years ago | (#23692189)

I don't think the actual article has to do with the XP methodology, though, the headline writer was just too dumb to avoid referencing XP 'cause he didn't know about it.

Resent code? (1)

vjoel (945280) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690437)

Engineers successfully resent the code on Thursday...
We all resent coding on Thursdays. Some are just more successful than others.

Re:Resent code? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690463)

If the NASA staff is typical, then Wednesday is probably poker night for many. The games go on well past midnight, so they don't need to report to work the next day and have some robot 35 million miles being a problem.

Why all the resentment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690469)

Engineers successfully resent the code on Thursday.


Guys, no need to be like that. Just because the code didn't transmit properly the first time is no reason to be bitter.

--Justin

Why do they have to do this much coding? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690539)

According to TFA, each member of a team of 30 engineers must write ~1500 lines of code, per day, in order to control the robotic equipment on board. This coding is done in C. Does this strike anyone else as a brain dead way to control a robot on a day to day basis? Why do they have to write the commands in such a low level language. Can't they abstract this into a more manageable format?

Re:Why do they have to do this much coding? (4, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690643)

I agree, there's something odd about using C to "program" daily instrument movements. They just need coordinate tables, not C programming. If there are conditionals, they cannot be complex enough to justify C, can they? The rovers didn't have very many conditionals for their sequences based on what I read. If something is not as expected, they usually have the rover stop and wait for Earth confirmation, NOT make the robot select contingency options (unless automated driving is on, but it still has low tolerances before going into wait-mode). I suspect the article is confusing the work of two different teams: the "operating" software developers and the instrument sequencers. Some journalists don't know C from a horse shoe......oh wait.
     

Re:Why do they have to do this much coding? (2)

GrayNimic (1051532) | more than 6 years ago | (#23692675)

From what I understand, Phoenix's on-board memory is sufficiently limited that they cannot keep the entire set of "normal" operations on-board (ie, the library would take up too much space). So for each day's actions, they have to include the relevant subsets of the library in with the command code. If those library excerpts are included in the line count (it would make sense from a "upload size" perspective, if not from a "programming" perspective), that could explain it.

Also, be careful with comparisons with the rovers. While the rover arms and the Phoenix arm are related, they've got some critical differences. One that makes the Phoenix arm movements far more complex is lack of any kind of touch/pressure sensor - the rovers' have them, so you know that you've contacted the rock simply by it being triggered. With Phoenix, they instead have to base "contact" on the change in torque values at the arm joints. That means a lot more calculations, and more daily variation (based on what you expect to be impacting/digging into).

Phoenix also doesn't seem to be very self-aware (ie it can't corelate two kinds of data, such as using the stereoscopic camera to understand what the arm is doing), meaning that it has less capability to do contingency cases - it can't even notice that something has gone wrong. All of that processing, evaluation, and decision making has to be done back on Earth. The rovers are much more self-aware, in terms of sensors about their state (wheel revolutions, etc) and more complex uses of the data it acquires (hazard-avoidance cameras).

Re:Why do they have to do this much coding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23692953)

Because the last time they used Visual Basic the polar lander crashed into the planet.

News Flash: the programmers at NASA are WAY better at coding than you ever hope to be. I'm fairly certian they know what they are doing.

!extreme programming (4, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690549)

Aside from having a strong general dislike for anything 'extreme', this is wrong because this is obviously (at least from what I saw) NOT extreme programming, it's programming for harsh environments (no not Windows :).

Crappy title.

Buzzword Soup: Reliable Computing (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691243)

I agree. It is not "extreme" to expect a device in space to have stand-by systems in place to withstand radiation. I believe the currently accepted buzzword for this is simply "reliable computing".

The idea is to anticipate failure events, and designing the system to survive them. It is cool... but certainly not extreme.

English language more complex than first thought.. (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 6 years ago | (#23692049)

Words [reference.com] can have different [reference.com] meanings. Film at 11.

Re:!extreme programming (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23693023)

What about extreme moderation?

I hope they mean... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690581)

I hope they mean this [uncyclopedia.org] type of Extreme Programming.

Vista Mars Lander (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690611)

Are you sure you want to do this, Windows cannot verify the software that is going to be installed on your Vista Lander system!

It needs to be said (0)

AXNJAXN (673089) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690647)

Lots of engineers resent their code, I'll bet.

Why didn't they automate Dumping The Scoop, etc? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690753)

Some of the things shouldn't require detailed programming each day,
because they could have been programmed into a firmware library!

The geometry between the arm, scoop, & the 8 ovens doesn't change,
so that could have been automated.
Instead of coding the whole damn thing
& hoping the signal can get there that day,
they could have told it
Invoke "dump scoop into oven # 1 routine"
and saved the interplanetary bandwidth+delays
for something that required customization...

Also, this business of EVERYTHING waits if one link in the chain gives,
suggests that JIT is the wrong paradigm for this case...
at least slightly.

The life of the machine is known to be finite,
the conditions are extreme in temp & superfine dust,
the thing's been jostled a bit in getting it there,
loss of function-time is costly, isn't it?

Hello World (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23690863)

Gives a new meaning to // EXEC ASSEMBLY
            START
  MAIN BALR 2,0
            USING *,2
            OPEN PRINT
            MVC BUF,HW
            PUT PRINT
            CLOSE PRINT
            EOJ
  HW DC CL132'HELLO WORLD'
  BUF DS CL132
  PRINT DTFPR IOAREA1=BUF,DEVADDR=SYSLST,BLKSIZE=132, *
                DEVICE=3203,CONTROL=YES,PRINTOV=YES
            END MAIN /* // EXEC LNKEDT // EXEC /* /&

now that is EXTREME programing, extreme as... extreme!

Extreme Temperature (1)

sciop101 (583286) | more than 6 years ago | (#23690921)

"the planet's temperature will drop well below the current safe range of minus 170 degrees Fahrenheit to 32 degrees Fahrenheit"

At least no confusion about those metric and British units.

Say What!? (3, Interesting)

Sam36 (1065410) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691167)

Why did they use vxworks instead of linux?

Re:Say What!? (3, Informative)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 6 years ago | (#23692103)

There can be lots of reasons. I like Linux as much as the next guy and have been using is since back in the days when I installed it on my 386 from dozens of floppies(and nearly fried my CRT monitor several time configing X :) Those were the days :) ). But I used to work on a project that used QNX. I was often pestered by people saying "Why cant you do that in WIndows" and then "Why cant you do that in Linux". Frankly we didnt because

1. We had years of libraries that were QNX specific
2. There were real time requirements that Plain Linux was not up to(real time linux may be... but you are talking a major porting project)
3. We had literally man-decades of programming experience in our team.
4. We were using a database soultion that was not available on Linux(and is still not)

SO the upshot is... it is often a decision to either have something working now to do the job or wait another few man-years before a (probably buggier) version is done for Linux. Its not anti-Linux. Its just common sense.

Re:Say What!? (2)

JamesP (688957) | more than 6 years ago | (#23693259)

I believe the main issue with using linux is memory protection.

"Real Time OS" is (kind of) "marketing speak" for a OS that does pretty much nothing. Not because it is bad or poor, but because it was designed that way.

And really, up in Mars you don't need hundreds of processes, user interaction, etc, etc

What you need is a basic framework for working with (and that VxWorks does), and you ABSOLUTELY NEED the OS to STEP OUT OF THE WAY when you need it!

Because sometimes the only way to fix a problem is binary patching something on the fly, or rewriting most of the system data, etc. Try doing that in Linux.

lucky for them (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691427)

>And they have a lot of interplay between different instruments, so you have to make sure the sequences are not just working, but working together.

I would have some interplay too, but Mass effect isn't out here, yet. Lucky Nasa engineers :)

Some other interesting points about that article (4, Informative)

Fallen Andy (795676) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691727)

1. Only 8 ovens, which can't be used more than once. Hence all the painstaking deliberations

about when to really go for a scoop of soil.

2. Only 3 months before it will get too cold and the lander will (probably) die.

3. Martian day, (roughly 24hrs 40mins).

The NASA programmers have been my heroes ever since the hacks they did to Voyager.

I guess after they've finished the programmers will take up something more relaxing (like working for EA).

Andy

Re:Some other interesting points about that articl (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#23692973)

Exactly, I get a kick out of guys that second guess programmers that are so more advanced than they are that they can only HOPE to aspire to be as good as the guys at NASA.

That and From my experience, less than 10% of all programmers have ever done anything embedded or robotics wise. The rules change when you are writing software for engine management, robots, or space probes, than when you are writing a new consumer toy app or spreadsheet program.

... sure scares this old timer. (1)

Fallen Andy (795676) | more than 6 years ago | (#23693101)

I started out my programming career porting the UCSD p-system. Bad enough being given a processor I'd never seen or programmed before , a box of bad photocopies and burning my way through 5 prototypes . Motorola 68K based with an "advanced" I/O processor (6809) which had bugs in the firmwire handshake with the MC68K. No parity on memory. Double sided board big enough to play golf. That was my first port. (It really helped that it used a blurry color Sinclair QL monitor at 110 column resolution - aarrgghh my eyes).

Debuggers? Hah. When I first got to play with an Orion Instruments logic analyser a few years later it was paradise (at least until I figured out it was a productivity loss (grins)).

Andy

Sorry... (1)

oblivionboy (181090) | more than 6 years ago | (#23691741)

...which satellite was that? I mean there are so many orbiting Mars....

shifts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23692383)

"One day, for example, they'll start work at 9 p.m. to get the code to the Lander in time. The next day, they'll start at 9:30 p.m."

Sounds a bit like my working days...
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